Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia) is a feeling that food is not passing appropriately from the mouth through the esophagus into the stomach.
Transfer dysphagia, or oropharyngeal dysphagia, occurs when food or liquids do not pass out of the mouth into the beginning of the esophagus. This will often result in coughing, choking or a feeling of things “going down the wrong pipe”.
This is most likely to occur with nerve or muscle disorders such as a stroke or Parkinson’s disease. Esophageal dysphagia occurs when food or liquid does not pass through the esophagus into the stomach in a normal fashion. The patient will feel that things go down partially and then stick. Breathing is not affected as no food enters the windpipe. This problem may arise from a narrowing of the esophagus (stricture), inflammation of the lining of the esophagus or abnormal motor function of the muscles in the wall of the esophagus.
Transfer dysphagia can best be evaluated and treated with the assistance of a speech pathologist using x-ray to evaluate the swallowing process. Esophageal symptoms can be further evaluated by barium x-rays or by passing a flexible tube into the esophagus (endoscopy) for direct visualization.
Dysphagia resulting from an esophageal stricture will typically respond to stretching or esophageal dilatation of the narrowed segment.